Contested evidence: visual representations of border violence in Calais, France

2020-07-03T08:41:14Z (GMT) by James Ellison
This thesis discusses the visual representation of violence and asks how practices of evidencing that are supposed to challenge the border can also be interpreted as constructing it. Through participation in practices of evidencing border violence in Calais, France, and using De Genova's 'border spectacle' as a theory of the dominant framing of border violence, this thesis investigates how representations of violence can be incorporated into presiding narratives of 'illegal' migration. It also argues that through a consideration of the discourse of vulnerability visual documentation can be used as a tool to resist movement restrictions, challenging the dominant framing of violence that is exemplified by the theory of the border spectacle. The visual material analysed in this thesis documents three forms of violence; police violence, anti-immigrant vigilante violence, and protest violence. Examining the way that evidence of these forms of violence is contested demonstrates how representations of violence can construct the figure of the 'illegal' migrant, and conversely how they can also be used to challenge the dominant framing of border violence. Deploying a movement-based epistemology and using forensic investigation as a method of analysis, this interdisciplinary investigation into the collection, collation and publication of evidence of violence utilises approaches and methods from the visual arts, critical border studies, and social movement studies. Drawing on a period of extended field work in Calais, which involved participation in the production and publication of the evidential material analysed, it examines how violence is represented by different mediators. With a consideration of specific practices of producing evidence, it investigates how visual representations of violence are mobilised by various actors within the struggle against movement restrictions. This thesis contributes to knowledge by examining the applicability of the theory of the border spectacle for explaining practices of evidencing border violence.